Gene editing, miracles, and bureaucratic decision-making

I’m sure that some of you and maybe even most of you have heard by now of a technology called Crispr and similar tools. In a nutshell and to make things very simple, what Crsipr does is allows you to make home made proteins and splice them into cells without destroying those cells in the process. Now Crispr is just the commercially available version there are other techniques and equipment that can be used to do the exact same thing. I can’t myself say for certain just when this sort of research began but it is finally starting to bear its fruit.

Why do I make this claim? I can make this claim because researchers in the United Kingdom have used these sorts of gene editing techniques and technologies to prevent the return of cancer in two infants. Now these infants did still receive chemotherapy and other traditional cancer treatments, that seems to be how the cancer was removed in the first place. What is truly remarkable is that the research time is willing to attribute their protection so far from remission to these breakthroughs. This is not at all cheap in fact it is almost prohibitively expensive and time consuming. The proteins used to do the gene editing must be hand tailored to each person and cultivated over time. This is going to lead us the next and most important point I have to make here today.

Single payer health care is a very contentious issue in the United States right now. It really shouldn’t because here in America the problem is distortion in the insurance market but that is a conversation for another time. This research happened at a hospital in England. In England and the wider United Kingdom they have a system where the very health care itself, not just the insurance is government managed. This has also been in the news here lately in the United States do to the now infamous Charlie Gard case.

If you are somehow not familiar with the trials of Charlie Gard here is your primer. Charlie Gard is an infant under the care of the United Kingdom’s health care system. He is under their care because he has a rare genetic condition that is quite expensive to treat and is very near to incurable. For this reason, the national health service over there has been ordered by the courts to take Charlie off of life support and let him die with dignity as the turn of phrase goes. Charlie’s parents have raised enough money to try the experimental “moon shot” cure. The courts however are not allowing them to even attempt it because the decision has been made according to the legal procedures that are in place there. The United States has given Charlie citizenship so that he may come here to receive the treatment and so has the Vatican, but both of them have been turned down. The child will die. I do not say this lightly, but Charlie Gard has received the “death panel” that so many were hysterical about just a few years ago. This is also our problem.

Crispr and other gene editors are currently in the process of being evaluated and regulated here in the United States. So we don’t know how our own law will ultimately interact with treatments like this. I would speculate that they will ultimately be available to anyone with the money or insurance to cover them. This is the freedom we have by having a health care sector that isn’t managed by the government, at least not directly. Outside of research test subjects, these are exactly the kind of treatments that won’t be available from nationalized health providers. They aren’t cost efficient yet and they are deeply time consuming. You won’t be allowed to burden your fellows tax payers long enough to receive a treatment like this, so you better hope for a miracle with one of the traditional treatments and then pray that you don’t fall in to remission. let’s go ahead and fix insurance sure, but don’t let government officials run your hospital because bureaucracy doesn’t believe in miracles like the rest of us.


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